Building AgReFed: A reusable socio-technical design for community governance and data stewardship

Mr Paul Box2, Dr Megan Wong1, Mr Bruce Simons1, Ms Kerry Levett3, Dr Ashlin Lee2, Assoc Prof Helen Thompson1, Mr Joel Epstein1, Mr Andrew MacLeod1

1Centre For eResearch And Digital Innovation – CeRDI, Ballarat, Aust, 2CSIRO Environmental Informatics, Alexandria, Aust, 3Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC), Adelaide, Aust



We present the reusable socio-technical architecture of the Agricultural Research Federation (AgReFed) including the roles, policies and processes that aim to provide a scalable, reusable and potentially networked approach (i.e. interacting with other governance structures) to collective direction setting and decision making.


The collaboratively developed framework ( was based on four key concepts:

Communities – independent and autonomous Data Provider Communities acting collectively;

Roles – the  roles performed by community members to govern (steer) and contribute to (row) AgReFed;

Policies – the materials (including standards, agreed levels of FAIRness for data and other agreements) that are produced through governance mechanisms that guide collective and individual actions; and

Alignment processes – processes that align individual data providers’ data and repositories with agreed collective direction based on FAIR principles and CoreTrustSeal Trusted Repository Requirements.


The AgReFed community collaboratively developed, implemented and tested the governance and stewardship model, moving from project phase to a sustained community. Learnings included the value of incentives, developing joint value propositions, shared vision, and the importance of co-operative principles and policies including decision rights allocation and the maintenance of provider communities’ autonomy and independence.


The learnings and challenges of moving from a project to a self-sustaining distributed data federation, along with the reusable design patterns (including policy, process and role descriptions) presented here, provide a resource for other communities focused on sustained delivery of FAIR and trusted data.


Megan has a broad background in the science research, natural resource management and education sectors. Completing her PhD in vegetation-soil ecology 2014 at Monash University, her passion is in increasing collaboration and knowledge transfer between sectors particularly environment and agriculture. As Research Associate (2018 to present) Megan works with data custodians and communities to help make their data more re-usable with a focus on agricutural and soils data.


AeRO is the industry association focused on eResearch in Australasia. We play a critical coordination role for our members, who are actively transforming research via Information Technology. Organisations join AeRO to advance their own capabilities and services, to collaborate and to network with peers. AeRO believes researchers and the sector significantly benefit from greater communication, coordination and sharing among the increasingly different and evolving service providers.